Before I say anything else, let me get this out of the way: I’ve got a whole new level of admiration for Maria Sharapova now that I’ve read her autobiography!
I haven’t spoken about it on a public platform, but I have always felt and told the people around me that the way Maria Sharapova got banned was really unfair. The element she used – meldonium, I think it was – was banned on January 1, 2016 and a few weeks later, she was accused of using it to enhance her performance. It was completely legal until December 31st and then boom! Here’s an excerpt from Unstoppable: My Life So Far that shows how she felt about it:
The ITF didn’t draw any attention to the fact that they were suddenly banning a supplement that was being legally used by millions of people. That was their mistake.
Which is true! The ITF’s decision to ban it because so many Eastern Europeans were using it and that it was “probably” enhancing their performance is a bullshit decision in the first place. Punishing someone for using a drug for years for health reasons and that you, as an organization banned pretty recently is such an a-hole move!
The worst part is that players like Roger Federer condemned Sharapova! Did they know the situation or did they not? Did they know it and still say it to be on the good side of the ITF? Or did they not know the circumstances? It seems like such a shitty thing to do, either way. And that’s a bummer because Federer is one of my favorite sportspeople of all time.
Maria Sharapova, or Masha, which is her real name, was born in Nyagan, Russia. At a small age, her father saw her potential and put his whole heart and energies into making sure that his daughter got the opportunities she needed to rise in the tennis world. And look at how that turned out! They made their way to Florida, USA, and it took a lot of practice and honing and struggle before she actually made it on the circuit.
The thing about Maria Sharapova is that she knows her strengths and she knows the limits she can stretch herself to. She is tough as hell and her reasoning behind so many of her actions make so much sense! For example, she says she doesn’t want to be friends with people she will play. And weird as that may seem, read it along while keeping competitive spirit in mind and it’s probably the sanest thing ever!
This book is straight from Sharapova’s heart – raw, honest, humorous, blunt, and unapologetic. It not only narrates what she did on court, but also tells us about what she felt as she did what she did and how her feelings affected her life. She talks to us about the role her father played in bringing her to where she is, her mother’s role in her education, her coaches, and a myriad other people who affected her like they did. You’ll find Serena Williams a lot in there because Sharapova thinks Serena is sort of her rival. The image she paints of her nemesis isn’t rosy at all. Yet, you tend to understand both perspectives and it’s one of the best parts of this book!
It’s difficult to talk about Sharapova without talking about the 2016 drug incident. And she has bared her heart and the pain that so many people caused her during that time. I sympathize with her and agree with her when she says that it was unfair to her, what the ITF did. I’ve felt like this for a while, and to read about her own thoughts and feelings about it? It just about broke my heart!
The happier part of this book is reading about Sharapova’s tenacity in her own words. Her most private feelings – journal entries that she’s included in here – and the way she worked hard to get where she is right now? It’s the most amazing revelation! And to read her thoughts as she fought her way through tennis strata to emerge like a breath of vibrant, hollering fresh air at Wimbledon 2004, was exactly inspiring and made me smile to no end!
If you’re looking for a sportsperson’s autobiography, then I’d like to recommend you this book. Sharapova’s story is inspiring to say the least, and there’s so much to be learned from it. I know that sometime in the future, I’m going to go back and read this one again!
I’ll leave you with these quotes from her book:
There really is so much more to learn from losing than from winning – about the game and about yourself. Do you get up when you’ve been knocked down? Do you have it in you to press ahead when your work suddenly seems pointless, when you are playing the game just for the game itself, when you worry that you are letting everyone down? Do you get up one more time than you’ve been knocked down? Or do you quit? No one really knows how they will react to disaster until the disaster is on top of them.
Losing knocks you down but also builds you up. It teaches you humility and gives you strength. It makes you aware of your flaws, which you then must do your best to correct. In this way, it can actually make you better. You become a survivor. You learn that losing is not the end of the world. You learn that the great players are not those who don’t get knocked down – everyone gets knocked down – they are those who get up just one more time than they’ve been knocked down. Losing is the teacher of every champion.
Rating: 4.25/5 stars
Picture Courtesy: Goodreads
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Here’s the link: Unstoppable: My Life So Far by Maria Sharapova